Yes, it’s that time again, time for This Week In Punchy, the comics review column for the ages! This is an historic edition of TWIP, that’s for sure. Well, not really, but it’s pretty good, and because it’s on the Internet, it will last forever, and perhaps in the future, will indeed be considered an important historic artefact.
This week’s precious comic book fossils include a double-dose of Scott Snyder excellence in the form of Batman and Superman Unchained, there’s also a new issue of Superior Spider-Man, an issue of Hawkeye that takes the novel approach of telling the story from a human’s perspective, more Fabulous Killjoys, a thrilling twist in Avengers Arena, and oh yeah, DC’s Trinity War crossover kicks off in the pages of Justice League and it’s surprisingly good.
As ever, click the links to head the Outhouse forum discussion, which will also become an important historical resource, I’m sure.
Superior Spider-Man #13– The Spider-Slayer arc concludes with a fun issue that’s more interesting for what it sets up, than for what actually goes down within it. Yeah, there was the shock of SpOck killing Smythe, but then we’ve already seen this version of Spider-Man kill before, so it wasn’t too surprising really.
What was surprising was the twist at the end, where Smythe tries to switch brains with Spider-Man before he dies, but of course, Doctor Octopus has already done that, and has taken measures to stop it. That was such a great moment, and shows that really, Smythe is a low-rent villain who just does what others have done before him. SpOck gloating about how Smythe wasn’t even defeated by his actual nemesis was a cool, cruel idea as well. You have to hand it to Christos Gage for this last arc, he’s stepped in to script, and he’s nailed the tone that Slott has established. Camuncoli’s art was as excellent as always, I particularly loved that ‘TO THE DEATH!’ splash-page.
But as I said, what’s interesting here is what Slott is setting up, you’ve got The Lizard, revealing himself to be somewhat of a good guy now, which is very intriguing. What next for Dr Connors? Then, at the end, Spider-Man blackmails Jameson (which, whilst I’m sad that the idea of Jonah being a fan of the evil Spidey is over with, was such a cool scene) into not shutting down The Raft, but giving it to Spider-Man as a base of operations. Spider-Island 2! And not only that, he’s looking at getting himself some minions. SpOck is really stepping up his game, but will these more overt displays of villainy be his undoing?
This book continues to a surprising and refreshing read, Slott never rests on his laurels, he’s really taking this concept as far as it can go. I can’t wait to see what Spider-Island 2 is like, and I can’t wait for the Superior, Superior Spider-Man.
Indestructible Hulk #10– Being that I’m a huge fan of Mark Waid’s Daredevil, and that I’ve not been feeling his Hulk run as much as I wanted to, it makes a lot of sense that this 2-parter that guest-stars the man without fear has been my favourite story so far.
The bulk of this issue was Daredevil trying to stop the Hulk from destroying a Hydra weapons cache hidden underneath New York. Hulk has been driven berserk by the Sonic Gun thing from last issue, and it was up to DD to stop him. It was a little convenient that the gun made people go blind, so therefore didn’t effect Daredevil, but hey, it’s comics. Matteo Scalera’s artwork has really impressed me in this story, he draws one heck of a Hulk, and I’m very excited to see what he’ll get up to with Remender on ‘Black Science.
I found the ending to this issue very cool, with the reveal that, one of the reasons Bruce Banner has Matt Murdock as his lawyer is that, if SHIELD crosses Banner, Murdock will go all Snowden on our asses, and leak to the press about some bad shit the US Government is doing. Presumably, this bad shit is that they are employing the Hulk, but could there be more to it? I mean, Hulk is publicly on the Avengers these days, would there be that much controversy if it was revealed that SHIELD were employing him? What else could there be? I also wonder if this is the last we’ll see of Baron Zemo in this series.
Oh yeah, and I loved how Banner’s narration had citations from fictional academics, like some dude from the University Of Latveria, that was a nice touch. In a book all about the Hulk, it’s the little things.
Daredevil #28– After wrapping up the big epic Bullseye storyline, Mark Waid delivers a smaller-stakes story for Daredevil, but one that’s every bit as personal.
The opening scene was really touching, Matt Murdock visits Foggy in Hospital, where he’s started Chemotherapy, and, tragically, because of his powers, Matt can smell all of the various drugs that are swimming around in his best friends body. This understandably makes him puke his guts out. Just being around Foggy is torture for Matt. But he can’t run away, he goes right back in there. Sometimes being without fear is about more than fighting crime, it’s about sacrificing your own well-being to be there for someone else.
The real-story kicks in when Matt is visited by a familiar face, Nate Hackett, one of the Hell’s Kitchen neighbourhood kids who bullied him as a child, and heck, he’s the guy who coined the nickname ‘Daredevil’! I love the idea of bringing back someone from so far in Matt’s past, and I’m actually amazed that this is unexplored territory. Nate’s back story was very interesting, especially how it showed Matt’s childhood in a new light, how he may have been just as much of a dick as Nate and the kids who bullied him were. We find out that Nate fell into a life of crime, and was even a member of the Sons Of The Serpent Neo-Nazi group, but crucially, before they became Neo-Nazis. Nate was arrested for being a member of The Serpents, but wants to sue for false arrest as he never participated in any race war!
I loved how Waid wrote the courtroom scene in this issue, and how he placed something as comic-booky as the Sons Of The Serpent into a real-world context. The issue ends with a great twist, as the Judge in Nate’s case is revealed to be a member of The Sons Of The Serpent and shoots him! This was such a cool moment and I’m very excited for the conclusion. Even on a smaller story, this series kicks ass.
Artwork for this issue comes from Javier Rodriguez, who is the book’s regular colourist. Man, not only is he a great colourist, but he’s a damn good penciler too. His work is very much in the same vein as the likes of Samnee, Martin and Rivera, and I was really very pleasantly surprised. I think it helps that he’s worked on the book in a different capacity for a long time, he really knows what works here.
Hawkeye #12– After last issue’s journey into canine-based storytelling, this instalment of Hawkeye takes us back into the world of humans, but interestingly, once again, the focus here is not on Clint Barton. Nope, this issue is all about his brother, Barney Barton, the former Trickshot and Dark Avengers Hawkeye. Just like how this series ignores what Clint gets up to as an Avenger, this issue ignores whatever Barney was doing in Dark Avengers, and we discover that Barney was the hobo that Pizza-Dog saved last issue.
It’s definitely going to be fun seeing Fraction slowly reveal just what went down in #11, we get one answer here, but there’s a lot more to come. Barney runs afoul of the Tracksuit Draculas, and is on the receiving end of a couple of brutal beat-downs. In amongst all this is a series of flashbacks to Clint and Barney’s childhood. This is before they joined the Circus, back when they were living with their abusive father. These scenes were very well done, very touching really, and it was very interesting to see that Barney is the one who taught Clint not only how to aim, but how to punch.
This was another excellent issue of Hawkeye, I love how each issue complete unto itself, but also ties in to the greater story. I will say however that the greater story does seem to be spinning its wheels a little. Grills was killed like, 4 issues ago, and we’ve barely moved beyond that point. I get that this is a unique book and it’s cool how it’s different, but it is a bit slow. Hopefully the one-two punch of the Annual and #13 will get things going. Francesco Francavilla once again filled in on the art, and whilst I still don’t think his two issues of Hawkeye are his best work, they look a little rushed, he’s still a brilliant artist with such a cool style, even his less-good stuff is excellent.
Young Avengers #7– The main story resumes and the main characters return to Young Avengers and once again I find myself deeply annoyed by this book.
Once again, I’ll preface all of this by saying that maybe it’s just me and I’m too old for this book, but the tone of this book is just so cringe-worthy too me. It’s trying way too hard to be hip and young and to appeal to Tumblr-fans, when what it should be trying at is having more than just surface-level cool, and actually telling deeper stories. It gets the closest to actually doing that when Gillen decides to revisit the idea that maybe Wiccan is altering reality to make Hulkling fall in love with him. I love this idea and how it fucks with the heads of their fans and ‘shippers’. It’s so dark and twisted, and it makes two characters I had no time for before into something very interesting.
I also liked the Skifflepuffles, they were funny, and although Marvel Boy’s Earth-Fanboyisms are a little annoying, they are amusing.
The thing that keeps me from dropping this book is the artwork from Jamie McKelvie, which is just amazing. I love how much he experiments with his layouts here, those two pages with the panels in the shape of Prodigy’s head? Genius. And whilst the Instagram page made me wretch, I do appreciate the idea behind it.
Maybe I am too old, maybe I need to start using Instagram and having feels and shipping things, but I don’t think I can. Sigh, I want to like this book, I do, Gillen and McKelvie’s Phonogram is one of my favourite comics ever, I’m so disillusioned.
Avengers Arena #12– Hey, would you look at that, Nico isn’t actually dead! Just like with Catwoman, the internet fell for a fake out, got all pissy about it and even accused the writer of sexism and racism! I wonder how the people who freaked out about the ending of #10 feel now? I’d like to think they were pleased, but then again, knowing those kinds of fans, they are probably even more annoyed that they were fooled.
This was another excellent issue of Avengers Arena, and one that was made all the better by the tight focus on 2 characters. This issue featured a major showdown between a Staff-Of-One-possessed Nico, and Apex. This was a brilliant fight, brutal and shocking, especially the ending, where Nico sends Apex for a ‘dirtnap’ by sending her underground. I thought Apex’s narration for this issue was brilliant, the idea of whether not notions of ‘hero’ and ‘villain’ apply in a game such as this was very interesting. Apex doesn’t see herself as a villain, but as a winner.
I also thought it was cool how this was the first issue in a long time that we actually saw Arcade, that we saw behind the curtain. He’s the major villain of this series, but apart from #1 and his focus issue, he has barely been present. This is especially significant when you consider the final few pages. Nico’s ‘dirtnap’ spell didn’t kill Apex, instead, she and Deathlocket are sent underground where they discover something very shocking indeed… a secret Lab, containing some very interesting items. Chris Powell, the original Darkhawk is floating in some kind of containment jar. Kid Briton’s head is also in a jar, and Mettle’s body is there… but it’s a robot! What the hell!
There’s one hell of a twist here, and one that could make all of the naysayers feel even more foolish, have none of the heroes died? There are some bodies there, so who knows! With the next issue set to focus on Hank Pym’s attempts to find out where the kids have disappeared to, this book is moving to an entirely new level and I am so very pumped for that.
Uncanny X-Men #8– Chris Bachalo returns for another very enjoyable issue of Uncanny, and one that’s full of fascinating conversations in that inimitable Bendis way.
We open with Fabio (AKA GoldenBalls) being taken back home by Cyclops and Emma. I loved this scene, as it went a long way to showing how Cyclops isn’t really a villain. A real villain would not have allowed Fabio to go home, but Cyclops does, and he allows Fabio to decide for himself how to use his mutant power. Of course, this act of kindness may be Scott’s undoing in the end, as SHIELD have been monitoring Fabio’s house, and he’s approached by the amazing Dazzler: Agent Of SHIELD to help them track down Scott’s X-Men. Uh-oh.
In order to replace the loss of Goldenballs, the X-Men recruit a new member, David, the guy we saw controlling cars a few issues back. This scene was also very strong, especially in how it illustrated the deteriorating relationship between humans and mutants, those cops were very quick to pull their guns. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, we went along time without any of these new mutant recruitment scenes post-Decimation, and it’s great to have them back.
The best scene in this issue however was the conversation between Cyclops and Magneto. The cover is a bit misleading, as it shows them fighting, but the war of words between them is just as good, if not better, than it getting physical. Cyclops and Magneto are two very complex characters, and Bendis is writing them brilliantly.
I just love these two Bendis X-Books, they are so consistently good, with dramatic stuff happening every issue, but also plenty of fun and humour in there too, just the right mix for classic superhero soapy goodness.
Superman Unchained #2– Scott Snyder and Jim Lee continue to do what only a few months ago seemed impossible and tell good Superman stories. It’s clear from only 2 issues that Snyder gets Superman just as much as he does Batman, and whilst this story is building slowly, I’m enjoying it a hell of a lot.
Snyder already has 3 interesting subplots bubbling away. The first of these is the terrorist group ‘Ascension’, and we find out a lot more about them in this issue. I loved the opening sequence with Superman rushing to figure out how to stop the world’s tallest building from falling down in only 20 or so seconds. I expect Man Of Steel haters will particularly enjoy this scene as it shows Superman figuring out a way to stop the collapse whilst at the same time keeping everyone inside it alive. The idea of the Ascension being Luddite terrorists but still using technology to hide themselves is very interesting and since there’s hypocrisy there, it begs the question about what their real end-game is.
Another subplot is the military’s secret Superman who makes an appearance right at the end to set up a fight in #3. The best thing about this storyline was that it led to a guest-appearance from Batman, in a very cool scene that played into what’s going on in Justice League at the moment, but wasn’t beholden to it. The Superman/Batman relationship is one of the best in comics, I loved the back-up story Snyder wrote in Batman featuring them a few months back, and this was great too. I also really liked the conversation between Superman and General Lane, who is an underrated Superman villain, that’s if you can really call him a villain.
Lois Lane’s appearance in this issue was a highlight once again, I love the new spin on her and Clark’s relationship now that he’s off blogging on his own. She reads his blog just to criticise him! Classic Lois.
The final subplot is Lex Luthor, who is just great in this issue. I love how he planned ahead, and the visual of his body being passed out but his mind still being in control of the machine was so creepy and brilliant. Was that machine Lex was in the same that Ascension used in Dubai? It looks kind of similar, but not exactly.
Jim Lee’s artwork was once again what you’d expect from Jim Lee, I do like how Snyder is giving him lots of epic stuff to draw, that’s what he’s best at. I’m really like Dustin Nguyen’s back-ups as well, but I wish they were a bit longer, 2 pages is not nearly enough!
Batman #22– ‘Zero Year’ continues, and I liked this issue a lot more than the first one. I think it was because there were only 2 timelines in this story, whereas the first one had 3. 3 timelines is too many! And anyway, this issue was mainly focused on Bruce struggling as a vigilante in Gotham, the kid Bruce stuff was only on a few pages, and it was utilised very effectively.
This issue once again sees Bruce Wayne trying to fight crime unsuccessfully as a mystery man who hides his face. The scene between him and the Red Hoods on that Zeppelin was just great, as, if Red Hood is the Joker, then we’re seeing these 2 archenemies before they become who they truly are. It was also cool to see The Penguin. The scene where Bruce and Alfred argue was also really strong, these two characters are normally so in sync, that it was really shocking to see them fight, but then, that’s to be expected, this is a young, raw Batman. Hell, it’s not even Batman yet!
My favourite scenes in this issue however were the ones at the museum, where Snyder faked me out so bad. I was really expecting Uncle Philip to try and kill Bruce there, but nope, he was actually bringing him back to life, and revealing him to the press. But to Bruce, this may actually be worse than being attacked. It was good to see Vicki Vale show up, Batman has loads of fleeting love interests, but she’s probably the most famous, I’d like to see her more in this story, but perhaps it was just a cameo.
I’m also really loving Snyder’s take on The Riddler (who once again, appears before actually becoming the character he’s destined to be), who is just so entertaining to read. I really liked that Boardgame/Ouroboros page, you don’t expect that experimentation a lot from a book like Batman, but Snyder and Capullo have done it twice now. Capullo’s art in general has been really good on this story, and I really like how FCO Plascencia is colouring things here, making it a bit brighter than previously. I’m still not convinced we really need this story, but it’s good, and that’s all that really matters.
Justice League #22– The big ‘Trinity War’ storyline kicks off, and, much to my surprise, this was my favourite issue of Justice League in a while. Well, I liked the last issue too, but that was an all-Shazam affair, this was my favourite issue of Justice League that was actually about the Justice League in a while. I’ve been complaining about both this title and JLoA spinning their wheels about getting to the big fight between the two teams, but now it’s here, and it’s actually pretty awesome.
The catalyst for this story comes from Shazam, who decides to pay his respects to Black Adam by taking his ashes to Kahndaq. As we know, outsiders are banned from Kahndaq, so the Justice League go to stop him. And then the Justice League Of America go to stop them. It’s all a big clusterfuck, and it gets even worse when Superman kills Doctor Light. Yes, you heard me right, Superman kills Doctor Light. It’s a pretty shocking moment, and I was looking forward to all sorts of fury on the Internet about it, especially since so many people argued that Superman should never kill after Man Of Steel. But unfortunately, it looks like things are not as they seem. The mysterious Outsider has manipulated events here, and I’m betting that this crossover is just there to lead into another one, Forever Evil. It’s a bit exhausting, but this was actually a good issue, so if Johns can keep that up, I’m fine.
I’m very excited to see the various Justice Leagues go up against each other, and to see how Justice League Dark are involved, because other than Madam Xanadu, they don’t appear. I did like that framing sequence with Xanadu, and the twist at the very end was great. I do think it’s interesting that ‘Trinity War’ is not about the traditional DC Trinity of Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman, but actually about Pandora, Phantom Stranger and The Question, but I find it hard to care about these characters, that scene where Pandora appears was just nonsensical. Is it worth reading her solo series? I doubt it. I did like seeing The Question though, I have problems with his new immortal cosmic nature, but he’s just such a cool character.
Ivan Reis’ art here was fantastic, his slick style is perfect for big epic superhero stories, and everything here looked fantastic, I particularly loved the fight between Superman and Shazam. It’s always awesome when those two fight (like Kingdom Come or that one episode of JLU) and Reis made it look awesome. So yeah, this was your typical Johns event-mode book, but I kind of like that mode, it’s certainly better than non-event-mode Justice League.
Green Lantern Corps #22– The new, John Stewart-focused era of GLC continues to be an entertaining read. I’m enjoying how this book still feels connected to the main book, but it doesn’t feel too connected. The mystery of why the rings are malfunctioning is a big presence in both books, but you won’t find the answer somewhere else, GLC feels like its’ own story.
John returns to Oa and sees the aftermath of Larfleeze’s attack. I really liked his reaction to finding out that Hal was in charge, and I’m especially intrigued as to what’s going on with Salaak. For so long, he was the lapdog of the Guardians, but now, he seems to have snapped. He’s actually the GL that seems to be interesting me the most at the moment. I also continue to be like the new status quo of most of the universe hating the Corps. In this issue’s mission, John and his new recruits run afoul of the Khunds, who have been hired by a planet to protect them instead of the Lanterns. I really think it’s cool that the GLC are no longer trusted.
I also really like the various new recruits that Jensen and Venditti have introduced, Jruk in particular got some nice development this issue. There’s also the Durlans sneaking around in the back, getting up to trouble, I dig the idea that their plan is one that’s been around for centuries, and is only now beginning, they are very creepy evil race. I thought it was great how Fatality instantly saw through their schemes. Throw in some really good art from Bernard Chang, and Green Lantern Corps is as good as ever. I would probably prefer it if each of the Lantern books was totally separate, but I can handle it like this for now, where they are linked, but in more subtle ways.
Suicide Squad #22– DC once again shot themselves in the foot this week by announcing that Ales Kot was no longer writing Suicide Squad with #24. This is stupid for many reasons, but the chief one is that these last 2 (and now 3) issues have been some of the best comics coming out of DC. Kot is an exciting new voice in comics, and whilst we’re still getting his creator-owned work at Image, he has a great take on superheroes, if DC let him go off and get snapped up by Marvel or even Valiant, it’s just a catastrophic loss. Stupid DC! You were so close to being good. So close.
Anyways, in the meantime, let’s appreciate what we have, there’s this issue, and one more, and they will be glorious. This issue showed us what was teased last time, as the Suicide Squad are in Las Vegas fighting a giant monster made out of people. This whole issue was just a fantastic action comic, starting off low-key (but brutal) with the Squad taking out the cult members who are putting Vegas under mass hypnosis, and then things get epic when the giant monster shows up. The fact that this monster is made up of 1000s of people who committed suicide is such a genius idea, it’s so dark and twisted, it’s so Suicide Squad.
That’s what’s great about Kot’s take on this book, it is dark and twisted, but he has something to say. I don’t know what else to say really, Patrick Zircher’s art was excellent, and I’m just pissed off. I’m sure #23 will be great, but DC have shat the bed here. It’s just depressing. Kot even introduces a great new twist on the Samsara serum here, and we won’t ever get to see him finish that plot off.
East Of West #4– Hickman and Dragotta’s insane sci-fi western continues with it’s most action heavy and probably best issue yet. Pretty much all of this issue was Death’s assault on New Shanghai and it was FUCKING AWESOME times 100. He and his two companions were carving a swathe through their enemies, it was seriously bad-ass.
But this wasn’t just violence for violence’s sake, we find out some interesting things about the characters. Not only about Mao and the back story there, but we see the special abilities of Death’s companions. The woman can change into a flock of birds, and the man into a pack of wolves, which is pretty damn cool. I make fun of Hickman’s portentous writing style on superhero books, but for a series with a decidedly apocalyptic bent like this one, it works a lot better. Plus, here, he actually can destroy the world, no matter how much creative freedom he has at Marvel, he can’t end that Universe.
Nick Dragotta’s art is once again absolutely breathtaking, this is the best work of his career, it’s just iconic. The best parts of this issue came towards the end, the first was the 3 other Horsemen of the apocalypse talking to the Colonel Sanders looking dude, and then, the actions of Death’s wife. She crushes her sister’s head with her robot hands (and man, was that hardcore) and then she decapitates her father. Death is now married to the leader of the House Of Mao, this is some serious stuff. I’m becoming increasingly fascinated by Mai Lin, what kind of woman falls in love with Death? What kind of woman can make him kneel? She could be the biggest player here, not her pale rider of a husband.
The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys #2(of 6) – Hmm, now this series just got a whole lot more interesting. I enjoyed the first issue of Gerard Way and Shaun Simon’s story, but this second issue was a lot more straight-forward, and now I feel like I have a better handle on the type of world this story is set. This is a strange universe, and one that doesn’t really make sense, but I suppose that’s appropriate for a world created in a punk rock concept album.
The best scene here was the blue-haired robot lady going to Battery City Hall to get a new battery for her friend, having to jump through a load of bureaucracy and then in the end inadvertently causing her friend to be sentenced to death. Such a banal dystopia. I also thought it was cool to get more depth about Korse, the ostensible villain of the series (who was played by Grant MFing Morrison in the original MCR music videos), who may actually be a bit more complex than he looks. Maybe he’s not a villain? He certainly has a secret life, in that it looks like he’s gay.
And of course, there’s the Killjoys story, as The Girl meets up with the only surviving original Killjoy, Cherri Cola. Cherri tells her to not take the fight to BLI, but of course, she’s not having that. Becky Cloonan’s art was, no surprises here, brilliant, she’s such a good artist, and her cool style meshes perfectly with something coming from big mainstream rockstar. Dan Jackson’s colours are also fantastic, the Killjoys are a colourful bunch, and he provides that in spades.
With each issue of this series, things are becoming clearer. It’s like being dropped in at the deep end at first, but now it’s starting to make sense.
And there you have it, I would say that was most definitely historic. My favourite this week was either East Of West or Daredevil, both of those are just shining examples of continuing excellence. It’s also great to have a good Superman title to read in Unchained. I would also like to say that Suicide Squad was a highlight, and it was, it was also ruined by DC’s boneheadedness.
Join me next week where I’ll be perusing the likes of Nova, Animal Man, All-New X-Men, Justice League Of America, both Fantastic Four books and more!